Open Letter to President Muhammadu Buhari
28th March 2017
Mr. President, we are a group of Northern non-partisan academics and public intellectuals who wish to share our concerns on a number of issues facing the nation. In so doing, our only intention is to be helpful to your Administration, which we believe is sincerely committed towards taking Nigeria further along the path of positive change and the improvement of lives and livelihoods of Nigerians. First, our warm congratulations on your improved health, following your health vacation to London. We wish you rapid and complete recovery. Second, we wish to congratulate you on your resolute war against terrorism and corruption, both of which have had considerable success. It is important that your government builds on this success to broaden the scope of change.
The struggle for economic recovery has had more mixed results and quite frankly, there is consensus in the country that your economic management team simply does not have the capacity to meet the nation’s expectations. The recent publication of the economic recovery and growth plan after 20 months in office is an indication of the team’s lethargy even if it is a significant step in the right direction and provides important indications of what needs to be done. We are aware that many people of goodwill have made suggestions to you that are similar to the ones in this letter but our hope is that as more people make the same suggestions, you are more likely to take them seriously. Mr. President, Nigerians voted for you because they believed your promise of good governance and cleansing the political arena of the corrupt, vile and self-serving persons who had previously ruled our country. Today, Nigerians are worried that many such people remain in government.
It is important to note that in governing, statesmen are obliged to practice the type of politics that would work for both sustaining the result-oriented political coalition that produced victory and indeed expanding the coalition. The end game however is to produce the dividends of democracy. In this pursuit, the public must be continually assured that Government is on the right track. Success emanates from producing the results of improved and more secure lives of citizens.
Mr. President, in politics, sustaining the loyalty of the political coalition that won the election is always important. You are lucky to have charisma and your thinking might be that this charisma would be sufficient to carry you to the Promised Land. Charisma, it will be recalled, is the authority of the extraordinary and personal gift of grace that breeds personal devotion and personal confidence in followers. It is important to point out however that history is replete with examples in which charisma fails because there is no political machine or process to sustain it. Mr. President, you are very well aware that your charisma actually has geographical limits and what produced victory in 2015 is not the charisma-inspired following of your base, which has sustained support for you throughout your political career but extending this political support to areas where your charisma is limited. It is for this reason that sustaining the alliance that produced the APC is crucial.
Mr. President, it appears that you have kept the large coterie of ‘professional politicians’- who worked hard, invested resources and mobilised to get you into power – at arms length. We understand the logic that would make an honest person act in this way. If your intention is not to work with politicians, the question you should ask yourself is, ‘What is the alternative?’ Simply refusing to act cannot be the alternative. The effect would be for many constituencies to lose hope in the future and that could be very dangerous. It is for this reason that we urge you to take this advice seriously.
Major Concerns The internecine and open fights between some leading members of your security team is threatening national cohesion and is destabilising the ability of government to work in concert. It is well known that when different security agencies are competing against each other and subverting themselves, it is the security of the nation that suffers. The narrow base of your close advisers is giving the impression that you are running a closed government in a political environment that requires a participatory approach of all relevant stakeholders. Nigeria is a large country and has a complex history with a commitment to federal governance. Regular engagement with a broad section of stakeholders would significantly improve the quality of governance.
There appears to be no political strategy to your engagement with your own political party, the APC and the National Assembly. As preparations for the next round of elections pick up pace, your Administration needs a strong political team to help you achieve your objectives. As you approach the mid-term of your mandate, your legislative agenda needs to be pursued with more pace and vigour. There are at least three urgent issues. The first is the reduction of the cost of governance through carrying out legislation that would address some of the issues raised in the Oronsanye Report and a new RMFAC formula, which would scale down remunerations of political office holders.
The Second is the Petroleum Industry Bill, which candidate Buhari had promised would be prioritized within the first quarter of the Administration. Finally, legislation is necessary to strengthen the anti-corruption agencies. Corruption appears to have tainted some of your leading subalterns and maintaining them in office gives the impression that you support corruption within your circle. The significant success you have achieved in the anti-corruption arena is being undermined by this impression.
There are an incredible number of vacancies in your Administration two years after your election. It is imperative that you fill them immediately so that you have competent people to pursue the implementation of the programmes for which you were elected. Regular communication with Nigerians should be an important part of the Administration’s style of governance. The impression so far is that the President rarely talks with Nigerians and presidential spokespeople appear to talk without full consultation with their principal, often finding themselves on the wrong side of what the President believes.
Nigerians often hear the President reveal information during foreign visits and it is simply respect for citizens that the President should talk to them more often. Recommendations Stop the internal war among your security team and remove those who are unwilling to do their work in a loyal manner and are spending all their energies fighting others. Make an effort to appoint more advisers, formal and informal from wider circles, and open up to other ideas and suggestions that would improve national cohesion. Appoint a high-powered team of economic advisers that can create coherence and synergy as well as guide the economic recovery plan. Appoint a high-powered team of political advisers that would guide the process of revamping your party and develop your political plans and strategy.
The political team should also have the capacity of developing a modus operandi of working successfully with the National Assembly to pursue your legislative agenda. Act decisively to get rid of your ministers and officials who have been tainted with engagement in acts of corruption. All vacancies in ministerial positions, boards, agencies and departments should be filled immediately. Develop a schedule for regular television appearances and town hall meetings to brief citizens directly on the conduct of government business.
Prof Massaud Omar
Dr. Abubakar Siddique Mohammed
Prof Jibrin Ibrahim
Mallam Y. Z. Ya’u
Mr. Chom Bagu
Prof Mustaha Gwadabe
Dr. Chris Kwaja
Mallam Ibrahim Muazzam
Mallam Auwal Musa Rafsanjani
Dr.Yohanna Kagoro Gandu
Prof Abfulkadir Adamu
Dr.Salihu Zubairu Mustapha
Mallam Danladi Aliyu
Mallam Abubakar Ibrahim
Dr. El Harun Muhammad